Stress in a pandemic, or the psychological costs of the coronavirus – Zdrowie Wprost

The pandemic and then the war in Ukraine greatly undermined our sense of security and caused us to become different overnight, uncertain of tomorrow and afraid of what would happen. In the current situation, we live in uncertainty and none of us feel safe. However, know that you need to take care of your mental health on a daily basis, as chronic stress can quickly lead to a deterioration in our mental state.

In people with fragile, vulnerable and fragile psyches, what is happening in the world today can cause anxiety disorders or sleep disorders. In order to prevent this from happening, it is useful to know what to do to protect yourself from the harmful effects of stress.

If you have never tried the wonderful techniques of breathing, relaxation and mindfulness, now is the time to know them. These therapeutic approaches can help you get through the pandemic crisis and overcome your stress.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to stressful stimuli. These may be events completely independent of us, for example the illness of a loved one, the loss of a job, the international situation. It can also be situations related to personal life, separation from a partner, loss of a friend. Regardless of what causes stress, it has a very strong effect on our bodies, worsening our mental and physical well-being.

Due to stress, the body releases large amounts of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone. This causes the release of adrenaline, which forces our body to mobilize. In the past, adrenaline was used to survive: because of its action, our brain works faster, concentrates more easily, the body and muscles are tense, ready to act and escape. At this time, adrenaline can make us brighter, act quickly and make decisions that can help us resolve the situation immediately. Due to adrenaline, the heart beats rapidly, the pupils dilate, and the person becomes more focused.

Why is chronic stress harmful?

It should be emphasized, however, that while such a temporary state does not harm us, it does not have a beneficial effect on the body in the long term. However, excessive adrenaline secretion can put too much strain on the heart and nervous system, leading to problems with the functioning of the cardiovascular system.

Chronic stress can have very serious consequences: it can cause sleep disturbances, insomnia, depressed mood, deterioration of mental state, depression and anxiety disorders. It can also put pressure on the heart, leading to arrhythmias, high blood pressure, and even heart attack. It also worsens memory and concentration.

Stress symptoms

Stress causes many symptoms, which can vary in nature. The most common are:

  • to feel anxious
  • fear for the future
  • fear for loved ones
  • the inevitable feeling that something bad is about to happen
  • sleep disorder
  • deterioration of mental state
  • anxiety disorders
  • sadness
  • indefinite fear
  • rapid heart rate
  • excessive sweating
  • shake hands

How is the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus pandemic affecting our mental health?

Pandemic stress is all the more difficult to manage because the stress factor cannot be eliminated. The pandemic has disrupted our sense of security and made us feel unsafe among others. The enemy was everywhere, and he was all the more dangerous because he was invisible. For many people, the coronavirus pandemic has led to isolation, increased anxiety, sadness and a sense of danger. Man is a social being who needs contact with other people to function properly. With limited contact, home confinement, remote learning and remote working, we started to feel like our homes had become cages. By not meeting our loved ones and being with immediate family members 24 hours a day, we became irritable and prone to anger and nervousness.

It is a difficult period, and thanks to vaccinations, fortunately, it is behind us. Again, we can go out and meet people by taking precautions because the coronavirus has not disappeared. However, it is not worth succumbing to stress and tension, staying at home and further limiting contact with people. We shouldn’t be put in a situation where stress will eat away at us and become a threat to our mental health. We need relationships with others, getting out of the house, changing the environment and the environment. In the times we live in, where tomorrow has become uncertain, everything must be done to improve our well-being and mental condition, relieve tension and reduce anxiety. Dark thoughts and isolation or living in a sense of danger can worsen symptoms of sadness, lead to the development of anxiety disorders or depression.

How to manage stress in times of pandemic?

Stress levels can be controlled using stress management techniques. Exercise helps very well, especially the use of physical activity in the fresh air. Walking, jogging and cycling are great for clearing the head, helping to reduce tension and anxiety. Physical exertion additionally oxygenates the body and stimulates blood circulation, which in turn ensures that more oxygen is delivered to the cells of our body. As a result, we gain energy and the will to act, our well-being improves. We also feel happier because physical activity stimulates the secretion of endorphins, that is to say the hormones of happiness.

Stress and relationships with others

The pandemic has limited our contact with others. And although now that a large part of the population is vaccinated, the situation is starting to normalize, for a long time we limited social gatherings and did not hang out with family or friends. This state of affairs did not have a good effect on our mental state. Feelings of isolation and loneliness have increased, which could in turn exacerbate insecurity, anxiety and sadness.

In order not to give up on this, it is worth taking care of the relationship in the way that we can. Electronic contacts, video calls, telephones can help us through a difficult time and remind us that we have not lost our loved ones and that we are still important to them. Maintaining such relationships is very important.

1. Breathing Techniques

Take a 5 minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight with your eyes closed. Place your hand on your belly and take a deep breath. With your hand, feel your belly rise as it fills with air. Count slowly to six. Repeat – until you feel your body relax. Focusing on your breathing can be especially helpful for people with an eating disorder, helping them focus on their bodies in a more positive way. “Deep breathing counteracts the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” says psychologist Dr Judith Tutin.

2. Mindfulness techniques

This practice involves bringing the mind’s attention to the present moment without delving into fears of the past or future. The mindfulness technique has become increasingly popular in recent years. Research suggests it may be helpful for people with anxiety, depression, and pain. Take 5 minutes to focus on one specific thing you are going through. Feel your feet on the ground. Be aware of their seriousness – it brings you back to the present, gives you a sense of grounding,” says Dr. Cynthia Ackrill of the American Institute of Stress. You can focus on any part of your body.

3. Relaxation techniques

Among the many techniques for relaxation of body and mind, it is worth dwelling on the so-called body scans. It’s a frequently used technique that almost anyone can handle. How to do? Mentally “scan” your body to notice its tensions. Lie on your back or sit on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your head, paying attention to how you feel. Then imagine the air flowing through every part of your body. Repeat this process paying attention to your sensations. You will probably feel an inner relaxation in your body.

And more – laughter therapy

A large dose of laughter not only reduces mental tension, but acts on the whole body. It lowers levels of cortisol, the stress hormone in the body, and boosts mood-boosting brain chemicals called endorphins. Relax watching your favorite comedy, read a light book or chat with someone who makes you smile. Recently, scientists have even shown that laughter is similar to antidepressants.

Psychotherapy

If stress paralyzes us, prevents us from functioning properly and causes a permanent deterioration in mood, which affects our daily life, we must consult a professional. Advice or therapy from a psychotherapist can help us get out of this hole and prevent the development of the disease. Remember that depression is an illness that requires treatment.

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